Helping each other: family and friends

Most people bereaved in road crashes find they need help from other people to cope with how they are feeling. This could mean help from people you already know, or from others, and often from both. Family or friends close to you can provide important support at this time.

Practical help from family and friends

People close to you may do different things that are helpful. Sometimes practical help, such as cooking food or cleaning for you, demonstrates that someone cares for your wellbeing. Someone close to you may be providing you with financial support. Inviting you to do something therapeutic, such as going on a short walk with you, or helping you print a photograph of someone who has died, can also show someone is thinking of you and your emotions. Many people bereaved in road crashes find hugs helpful, or just sitting with someone. 

Talking with family and friends

Talking about your thoughts and how you are feeling with family or friends can be particularly helpful. You may have someone close to you who is a good listener. You can sit and tell them your thoughts and feelings and they are supportive.

Some people find it a challenge to talk about feelings with family and friends. This might be because you don’t normally do this. If you are part of a family, and other family members are grieving the same death or deaths, you may be worried you will make things worse for them if you talk about your feelings. However, it is usually better to try to talk to each other. 

Some people feel that their usual circle of friends doesn't seem to know how to offer helpful support. You may feel that they don't have the time to listen or don’t understand you.Most people want to help, but many people don’t know how. People who care for you might even distance themselves because they are scared they will say the wrong thing, or think you need time alone, or have their own problems or life pressures which make them think they can’t help you much. 

Here are some ideas that may help you get talking with people in your life:

  • Find time – when you don’t have to rush anywhere soon.
  • Find a quiet space – somewhere relaxing where you can really focus on feelings.
  • Try to avoid talking when anyone is suffering very extreme and heightened emotions, for example shouting in anger. 
  • Agree that you are going to talk about feelings, and that you will all listen and accept each other’s feelings as genuine and important, and try to understand them and support each other.
  • Find someone who you respect in your community who can sit with you and help you to talk to each other. This could be a faith leader, or someone with some experience in helping people talk and listen to each other, such as a counsellor.
  • Read this guide together – this can help explain feelings, start conversations, and make it easier to support each other.
  • If someone close to you, who you normally like, says something to you that you find hurtful, try not to blame them. Explain why it hurts. They are unlikely to mean to hurt you; they just didn’t know what to say because they are struggling to see the world through your eyes.
  • Agree the frequency you will talk with people. Some people may be worried about talking to you because they are scared that you will lean on them too much, too often. Sometimes having a close chat, every so often, helps; for example meeting once a fortnight. This gives you something to look forward to.
  • Agree who you can talk to if you are feeling particularly bad, and times that it is not convenient to talk to them. 

Often, having one or two people in your life who you can talk to really easily, regularly and openly is enough. 

Helping children

In many ways, children have the same needs as adults. Children want to know what has happened and be given opportunities to talk about it and feel involved and loved.

Like adults, children often have a lot of questions. They want to know how someone died and if it hurt. It is much better to answer children’s questions than information from them. Children have powerful imaginations and they may imagine something even worse than the truth if you don’t include them.

Brake has produced guidance on helping children, and a picture book for children and adults to read together about someone dying suddenly. Find out about it here.

@ Copyright Brake 2017